Curating Content Is Similar To Counting Sand. Both Are Possible, But Why?

I've recently stumbled upon some articles as well as media folks talking about the notion of curating content -- and picking the right content, distributing it across the site, picking the best of the best, the most relevant, the most recent... the best.

I think curating content is critical at times, while at other times, machines are your choice pick. This article will discuss some tips on how to use curation and the machines that do it for you and can offer the best content to your users.

When you run an organization you always want to know you're doing the best you can to differentiate yourself from your competitors, that you're progressing your product in the right direction and that you're pursuing a meaningful market. 

By nature, those who try to do a notch too much are risking to end up with nothing. In a similar fashion, curation is a limited resource and should be well used.

When to use content curating:

(1) Massive traffic single pages. There is a middle ground where curators can select a 20+ list of stories and videos they want to promote on single massively trafficked pages such as the homepage, or category pages -- and allow machines to optimize them based on Personalization, GEO location, or just measuring and optimizing based on what actually works. Here is a good place of combining the two, but leading with content Curators.

(2) You're a Hulu look-alike. You can't afford adequate content on your site, but you can afford selecting what comes in. Curate it beginning to end.

(3) You're an HBO look-alike. You want to spend a lot of time browsing through many different options before choosing your next project to create the "Larry David" show. It will be hard for machines to help you here.

(4) There is a meaningful event going on. For instance, a presidential inauguration. It doesn't happen every day, hence you want to take a close look of the content you promote, and the experience you create for your users.

(5) You just have to. Sometimes, there is a need to bias your site traffic because you have a sponsorship or because you have some target to push certain type of content in a certain period. Curate that content and push it across the site.

When and why you shouldn't use "curation" of content:

(1) "Say my name say my name." Curators can't by definition differentiate their selections to users based on their originating GEO location, users' behavior history, etc.

(2) Really hard /non scalable. If you're a business, on the low end, you have several thousands of content items on your site such as videos and articles, and several hundreds of thousands of unique users on your site. If you want to enrich every article with more articles and more videos, people might want to be engaged with it -- but this is really hard to do. The difference between machines to human selected content to machine is in the ~3x (see video).

(3) The fact you can count sand does not mean you should. Content is king. If you focus your editors and curators on making sure your content is distinguished, unique, appealing, and reflecting your brand, you're maximizing your editors' unique capabilities. Leave it to the machine to do the rest, and you're mastering the Pareto Principle rule. 80% of the curation should be focused on the content coming in, and on massive traffic pages, the rest of which is mainly distributing that great content across your pages and to the web -- machines. For instance, when I think of Kevin Rose, and Technology I'm thinking Revision3's Diggnation . This is good curation of content and brand recognition.

In conclusion, content curation is important and needed, and I think that if you're able to combine the power of curation with the power of content distribution, you're maximizing both worlds.

The rest -- might be counting sand.

4 comments about "Curating Content Is Similar To Counting Sand. Both Are Possible, But Why? ".
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  1. Jim Louderback from Revision3, March 23, 2011 at 10:25 a.m.

    Thanks for the positive comments about our Diggnation show. Yes, we do think we do curation right at Revision3.

    But the part of curation I think you're overlooking is the fact that a trusted expert is often the best person to lead us to great stories, videos, websites, etc. In addition to Kevin and Alex's Diggnation, I trust Jason Hirschorn to lead me to relevant media stories, the crew at Cynopsis to keep me up to date on new and old media happenings, Matthew Cerrone to update me on the NY Mets and my hometown paper, the Pacifica Tribune, to keep me on top of local goings-on.

    I use google alerts to focus curation on specific keywords, notably our own brands and people, to make sure I know what others are saying and talking about in reference to our properties. Those are very different.. in the end, trusted, expert people make the best curators for many types of things - but machines have their place.

  2. Adam Singolda from Taboola, March 23, 2011 at 11:24 a.m.

    Agree Jim. Both curators and machines have their place, and that they complement each other.

    I think curators help indeed for two main things:
    (1) Deciding what cross the filter to begin with (before even offering it to people)
    (2) Providing the expert and social angle (when fred wilson recommends something, i usually check it out as i like his writings and his opinion).

    The main challenge with the above two is "scale" and “personalization”. Assuming you have amazing content filtered in, how can you best make sure the right content is being offered to the right people in a certain context. This is practically impossible for curators to help at this point.

    Let's take an example -- I'm a site with 10k videos, 50k articles, and 5M unique users. A user landed on an article from twitter, potentially some of my friends have read this (and then social recommendation can be helpful, totally agree), but let's assume not. Now the curators have done great job that whatever offered to that user is "good", but among the 10k videos available, in the 5 minutes timespan the user has - what videos should i offer them? Here is where machines can help complement the curators in my mind.

    I hope this helps, and thanks for the comment.

  3. Ruth Barrett from, March 23, 2011 at 3:19 p.m.

    We're CMS specialists and high tech marketing execs and our site,, the voices of sustainability, is based on video aggregation and curation. For us its machine and people and you can't have one without the other.

    Our content (800 programs and growing) is all curated for relevancy and accuracy and organized using a taxonomy we created to organize what will be a large digital collection.

    We don't host, but are a screen door to online video content and like Google, organize and manage information. Unlike Google we also produce original content.

    According to the above are we a hulu look-alike, but unlike hulu we are dedicated to sustainability and education rather than entertainment? What do you folks think?

  4. Adam Singolda from Taboola, March 24, 2011 at 12:11 p.m.

    Hi Ruth:

    Sounds like you're doing the right thing. Curating (and at some cases self-producing) good content so you've established a foundation of large and growing premium inventory.

    Then, on top of it -- you're thinking already about how to scale this, and you've created a Taxonomy to help you match videos to other type of content.

    Depends on where you're seeing your videos end up being presented (on your site, on others sites, on other platforms, etc) you'll be able to see how scalable is your solution, and what's the engagement metrics you're seeing ('videos per session', etc).

    I hope this post was helpful, and good luck !


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